tv Your Business MSNBC August 29, 2010 7:30am-8:00am EDT
♪ hi there, everyone, i'm j.j. ramberg, and welcome to "your business," where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. it is a question we ask a lot on this show. how can a small retail business compete against the big chains? the answer is usually by offering something that the chains don't. we met one an entrepreneur who is doing just that at the annual gathering of super hero fans, comi-con. ♪ >> if you think you're looking at a giant halloween party, you'd be wrong. >> oh, sorry.
>> but it's an easy mistake to make because this is comi-con. >> is it a media event, is it a juggernaut? is it its own town? i don't know. but it's huge. and you can't afford to not be here. ♪ she's a super >> adam hughes. >> awesome. thank you very much. >> who's known for his dramatic d.c. comic cover ill administrations is one of the nearly 1,000 entrepreneur artist vendors who attend this once-a-year comic book convention held in san diego, california. >> you get the most foot traffic, the most exposure. i'd have to do ten other shows, ten other large shows around the world to equal what i do here at san diego. >> to the outsider, the con, as it's called, may look like nothing more than a big dressup party. but for those entrepreneurs who understand it, it's a booming niche market which can form the core of a successful business. >> we don't carry a wide amount
of product. we're very selective. and 90% of our customer base are professional artists. >> stewart eng is a los angeles-based entrepreneur whose niche is self-covered sketch books. people like adam hughes, books that otheric book and animation pros are eager to find and buy. >> the animation industry and the comic industry, he is a really valuable resource. everybody i know buys their books from stuart because you he has the best stuff. >> go in and cover my eyes. but it's useless. walk in wanting to spend $10, walk out spending a couple hundred. the books are gorgeous. >> everything that i carry is a reflection of my tastes. and when they look at our selection, they say every one of these books is great. every one of these artists is fantastic.
they feel like items are preelected. i've already gone through and i've gotten rid of all the chaffe, and here's the good stuff. >> in general it's hard to find these books, especially these their one. >> ng carefully focuses on books not available through the big chains like amazon or barnes and noble. >> i've developed a philosophy of not competing with them. so if it's available on amazon, i'm very unlikely to carry it. >> he's one of the guys you go to when you're looking for those obscure tracks on art and painting and just wonderful graphic -- graphic sensibilities that you can't find at your regular book stores. >> as a result, stuart ng books and its online component has established a growing and very loyal customer base. >> we'll have the number one in about two weeks. >> okay. awesome. >> customers not only buy his books but also send their friends to buy books, too. and in turn, many of them offer ng exclusive rights to
distribute their own self-published sketch books. >> to ask if you'd be interested in carrying a couple of our titles -- >> often when they have books that they produce themselves, then either i'll ask them if i can carry it, or sometimes because they know that we carry great stuff, they want to their books in my store. >> he promotes me, but i promote him. we all kind of benefit. >> this relationship has paid off. despite the crippled economy, ng's business has grown 25% over the last six months. and here at comic-con, sales from this four-day or gee of conception has netted him close to 40% of his net revenue. >> i like the style a lot. i think the characters have charm. >> ng's focus at this convention doesn't stop at the cash register. he says running a niche business means also acting as something of a talent scout. he keeps his eyes out for hot, new talent to showcase in his store. the kind of creative inspiration that keeps his customers coming back for more.
>> i was wondering about the art catalog. are you going to be wholesaling that? will you be able to send us some? >> for you, yeah. >> great. >> we always see a bump after comic-con, so we have the revenues from the convention itself, plus if we buy well then we come out of comic-con and across august and september, we're selling books like crazy through the mail order. ♪ >> this story just shows how there are a lot of markets out there that may be too small for a big company but are certainly big enough for a small company. let's turn to this week's board of directors. ♪ >> mike mcalowitz is founder of object sidyon launch, they partner with small businesses to make them niche industry leaders. he's also author of "the toilet paper entrepreneur." ♪ >> and michael port is the
author of four new york times best-selling bigs including the "think big manifesto." a niche market that is not as niche as you think. my husband had me in a comic bookstore for an hour a few weeks ago. >> you were loving it, weren't you? ? yeah. no. he was loving it, and that's good. getting to the niche business, this is what you focus on. how do you -- how do you find that niche business? >> there's one strateistrat str called the not market. he mentioned it. when you find a market that's already being served, you ask yourself who's not being served. amazon's serving a tremendous amount of people, but who's not being served? once you identify it, you've found your niche. >> it seems a little bit risky. to do nothing -- amazon is huge, right, barnes and noble is huge. to get stuff that they don't have at all. >> sure. >> i'd like to make a distinct because sometimes the term "target market" and "niche" are used interchangeably. from my perspective, i think about them differently.
the target market is the demographics that you serve. the niche is area of specialty that you bring to that target market. and so what he's done is he's identified this target market, these collectors and very, very high-end artist. then he's bringing them something that they can't find normally, you know, in the places that the mainstream goes. he's done both of those things very, very well. >> you know what seems great about him i he seems to be "the guy." the guy that you go to to find hard to find illustrators, et cetera what if there's already another guy, you know? is there room for more than one when you get to the tiny markets? >> yeah, it's called tonightability. how dow present -- tonality. how do you present different stuff to the same people? they find the stuff and get rid of the chafe. a tone gets rid of the chafe they don't want to hear. >> some think i'll sell to anybody who's a pulse in the checkbook. there are certain poem you're meant to stem cell research if you're going to establish a
niche kind of business. what you bring to it, what you stand for, how you develop that personal brand identity is going to give you access into that small market, that small area, even if there are other players there. >> all right. i want to get your opinion on this next story because it is a big issue that people deal with, and it really takes a lot of thinking to figure out how to resolve this. i'm sure you've heard of and all of you have heard of the massive recall of eggs because of concerns about salmonella. that left that industry reeling, and of course, look, in a sluggish economy, having your reputation take a hit can potentially destroy any business. so you have to figure out how to deal with it correctly. that of the case for a pizzeria we profiled in arizona. that business had to overcome some extremely bad publicity as a result of child pornography charges. when peter and terry picurro gave their last name to a thriving pizza china, they had no idea how quickly their
successful business could fall apart. >> picurro pizzeria, work sinking your teeth into. >> business was great. we were well known in the community. we did a lot of things for schools. sponsored a lot of teams here in tucson. >> when they divorced, terry still owned 50% of the business, but you peter ran the day-to-day operations. >> peter was a creative guy. i mean, he really created all the recipes. he had plans for the expansion that i think were unique in the sense that he was creating a franchise business. >> then came news that would shatter the good name of picurro pizza. >> picurr pizzeria employees shocked by the arrest of their boss. >> he was arrested for solicitation of a minor over the internet. my reaction was devastation. >> the problems for picurro started when tucson police got a tip from the national center for missing and exploited children. >> by the next morning, i realized i had to make sure the
pizza parlor, the one we owned, was open. within two days peter had signed over all assets to me. >> peter picurro's arrest sent shockwaves through tucson. >> there was nasty phone calls to all locations. bad words said to staff for no reason. news crews outside of locations trying to catch employees. my store, the will mont store, the one that peter owned, lost two windows during this time. >> d. with mcgahrety sprung into action. >> my reaction that was we would have to change the name. and the nature of the space station situation, the way the press -- the way the press went after it that night, it hit the news, 5:00, 6:00 p.m. it was immediate. by the next day sales were down, estimated around 40% to 45%. which left no other option. we had to do some damage
control. >> the first step, separate peter picurro from the business he built by focusing on the company's employees. >> had come up with an idea of a letter of putting a face on picurro's, that it was not just one man. it was over 100 jobs, and other people's livelihoods depended on it. >> the ethics step was to talk with the picurro pizza franchisees. >> the franchisees were upset, rightfully so. this of shocking news. this were willing to listen. some were not. >> we were trying to see a way forward, and at the same time, there were some low-ball offers coming in from businesses who thought they sniffed a fire sale. >> after rejecting offers to sell the company, terry decided to forge ahead by forming a new pizza business with a through name and new partners. ed and karen from d.w. mcgaritiy and jeff walker, a franchisee. >> we formed a brand new corporation, we changed the
name. we made offers to all the existing picurro franchisees, three of them took the offer. three did not. we worked very hard in the beginning to get new signage and new materials and new advertising ready. >> ed and karen quickly sent letters out to customers about the company's new ownership name change. >> ed came one a new name. just off the top of his head, fresco. it means fresh. we're a fresh product. >> new name, new owners, same great recipes. and that really became our story. >> the last step -- getting the word out. >> after the name change, we did do a blitz. we were on radio, we were on tv. >> fresco, pizzeria and pastaria. >> with all these changes in place, the owners kept close tabs on sales. >> thanks for calling -- >> slowly but surely sales increased. more telling were the sales were maintaining. that was a good sign. we were able to hold on to our
customers. they were back, and they were back for good. >> people have forgotten all about it. i've got two people at work who say they love it. it's their favorite restaurant, honestly. so they've overcome it. >> most of the stores have gained sales and are growing. we've added a fourth franchisee. we have people interested in our product. i think we're back. we're ready to go. >> mike and micrel back to talk about this. what a crazy thing to have to deal with, right? as anybody, but as a small business owner, i thought, though, they handled it incredibly well. >> you know, there's really a three-step process. i'm curious to how this plays out. the first step in situations like this, always apologize. they will shoot the messenger. doesn't matter who caused the crime, the customer will shoot the messenger. you apologize. then you disassociate say, listen, we are sorry this happened, we're embarrassed it happened, this is the action we're taking.
we have new ownership, leadership. the final thing is decisive action. you grab the momentum of customers retaliating against you and cabture that and run. when people are breaking your windows saying we can't stand this guy, you say we can't either. 10% of provirifits are going to child pornography cases -- >> but then you drag the story on. >> but the stories live on forever on the internet. >> and the key is story. you heard -- i think it was the p.r. representative talk about, we changed the story. >> right. >> and marketing is storytelling. good, authentic storytelling. so they changed the story. they made a new, authentic story, and they did a great job of retelling and telling and retelling and -- and telling that story again and again. >> i to think the -- i do think the lesson from this is deal with it. >> yeah. >> deal decisively and quickly. if someone brings this up, they may say they're masking this,
they didn't resolve this. >> haas something, absolutely -- >> there are things you can do to protect yourself, especially on line, it's very difficult. there are software programs that will help watch what's being said, what's happening on line. so reputation defender is one of them. and it will go -- >> it's interesting, though. we'll have this discussion another day about this obviously was huge. something big happens, you have to deal with it. when there are just little things on the internet, do you deal with it or isn't a whole other question and discussion. thank you very much for your insight. it is a tough issue that unfortunately a lot of companies have to dole with. not to that level, but in some way or another. thanks so much. when we come back, a look at some of the hot books this could help make your small business more productive. and in this week's "where's the money," we'll find out about some of the small business funding that might be available at the local level. we'll tell you where to look.
discovering ways to get money in today's market can be difficult. however, our next guest has several ideas on how to find solutions right in your own back yard. she's a sbbs expert for credit.com and author of "psych yourself rich." two of the many, many things you do. great to see you. >> you, to. how are you? >> i'm good. finding money, everyone's talking about it now. it's obviously hard. there are places like the mayor's office. >> the local offices, the mayor's office. i'm getting press releases day in and day out from the local mayor's offices saying we're setting aside millions of dollars for small business owners. if you live in a city like boston, philadelphia, new york, san francisco, could be even a small town in connecticut, chances are you might find free money off of your mayor's office. >> wow.
and then grants. i mean, we talk a lot about grants on this show and how they're really hard to get. >> well, a lot of these new programs that the mayor's offices are setting up are specifically targeting the minority-owned businesses, funding and free grants for them, as well as businesses that are venturing into the green ecosphere, the businesses that are starting, you know, environmentally friendly businesses and services. so if you fall into any of those categories, chances are -- >> women owned? >> exactly. >> okay. then look in developing areas. this is what neighborhood you're choosing? >> exactly. i always say developing equals a town or city where there isn't a starbucks yet. so -- >> is there one? >> well, if you find one, that's often a -- a geographic area where a lot of these grants and free money and loans are going to those small business owners, if those areas. >> okay. so this is -- if you're moving your company or if you're starting up something. and then also here, same thing, if you're moving or starting up something, there are work spaces out there that you can get
cheaper? >> exactly. not just money but work space. or free materials for your business. so check again. your mayor's office, a local economic development center. a lot of about i lot of times they may or may not have money but may have office space, workspace, equipment. >> it's there but it's not well-publicized. >> exactly. you have to dig for it. the key is to do it as soon as possible because a lot of this will run out as soon as people find out. want to be the first in line. >> finally, tap community leaders. >> absolutely. this is brand new i read about this last week, the u.s. treasury awarded $100 million to local lenders throughout the country, community banks, credit unions. so you need to tap these resources, especially if you're in a developing area, minority-owned business, you are right for these. >> that's more traditionally but you're saying now is the time. >> cdiffund.gov, find which lenders have gotten these awards. >> great. thanks so much.
good luck. >> when running your business, it may feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. so here now are five books that may help you boost your productivity, courtesy of personalnba.com. "get things done" a system for organizing jobs at hand. "the power of less" a lesson on how to focus on the most pressing issues of the moment and reduce distractions. "the 80/20 principle" an in-depth look how people can accomplish more in less time professionally and personally. "the power of full engagement" provides a look how to maximize daily energy level and make the most out of your day. "bit literacy" can help you manage the constant stream of e-mails, phone calls and text messages. it's time to answer some of your business questions. mike and michael are back with
us one last time. the first one is about how to find a manufacturer for your product. >> how do you find a manufacturer that's more willing than a normal manufacturer to work with an entrepreneur that has a new product idea or has an invention that he needs to bring to you, prototype stage or the final manufacturering stage? >> and get them to work with you at a reasonable price. >> any time i think of pitching something, three things i think of. first, demonstrate it's going to be successful. two, demonstrate it's worth their time. number three, i need to prove that i can champion this long term. i always focus on those things this that conversation and that pitch. >> how you find them, look for buying consortiumiums, they're out there for manufacturers. piggy backing, go to a company that's using a big manufacturing request and piggy back off of them, get your small request in with them. >> good idea. the next one, this is from
tamecka. i'm in the process of starting a medical billing service. my concern is convincing a physician why he or she should take a risk at being my first client. any suggestions? this is good. exactly follows off that last question. >> it's very, very similar. but, you know, reputation is key. so getting to know the influencer in any market is key, and it takes time. people go too quickly through that process. winston church hill said one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time. >> do it for free. because the second customer will say, do you have any other customers, yes. >> i agree. you have that testimonial also and say, we work with blah, blah, blah. if you're going to do it for free, do it for free with a good customer to get something out of it. the next one, this is about precautions business owners should take for employees who travel around the world. >> developing areas of the world are not known for their safety and if something should happen
to any one of my employees what kind of liability would i be under and what steps can i take to protect the company? >> yeah. this guy's going, he's not sending people to paris, he's sending them to haiti and other places like that. >> he should be very concerned. he's asking a good question, what should he do to protect the company. he should ask, what can i do to protect the individuals. check the cdc because they have requirements with respect to insurance, et cetera be and they also have suggested additional protections on there, as well. >> yes. what actions should i take? send yourself. if you're sending yourself -- >> he does. he sends himself. >> do you hire a bodyguard? if you do that for yourself, do it for employees, that's called reasonable assessment of the situation. whatever you do for yourself, you have to do for them. also, definitely get travelers insurance for ransom, all of those situations. >> evacuation. >> medical emergencies. >> cdc will have that listed out
in terms what's available. >> have a local contact. >> absolutely. >> nothing better than having someone that knows the area. >> lewis writes, website landing pages and conversion rates, how do you make them more effective. >> people coming to your site are transient traffic. people come to your site for five seconds. so you have to what's called an ethical bribe, something that will get e-mail address. a great report, a free coupon, discount, but get their e-mail address. if you want to convert, you an opportunity to communicate with them through e-mail, that's how you do it. >> yeah, absolutely. and i think the mistake that many people make, they look at a website as one big thing. it's not, it's a series of interconnected pages. think of each page, who is coming. different people come to different pages. two, what do you want them to do? number three, how are you going to get them to do it? that might be with that kind of ethical bribe. >> research out there which shows clearly where your eye goes. so the important part of
whatever you're trying to get someone to do, put it in this part of the website, something else, this part of the page. >> they have to track, they have to do split testing. you can't guess. >> don't just show your wife and see what she things. >> ethical bribe, never heard that before. >> never heard that? >> i never heard that. >> here you go. >> i'm going to start using that. that's interesting. well, thanks so much, you guys, for all of your advice today. really, really appreciate. if you have a question for our experts, go to our website. openforum.com/yourbusiness. there, just hit the ask the show link to submit a question for our panel. openforum.com/yourbusiness or if you'd rather, e-mail us questions or comments. address is firstname.lastname@example.org. we've gotten some great advice from our panelists today. now, here are some survival tips from entrepreneurs just like
you. >> when we went out to raise money here in cleveland, which we did very successfully in 2000 and -- 2005 we brought not only a business plan but three customers and that helped convince the investors to put money into our company. >> if you're going to raise capital, make sure you're talking about the whole business, make sure you're talking about how to go to market, how your going to win customers because customers will not be a path to your door because you have the coolest wij. you have to have one leader, and most of the time you have to have a leader that has vision, capacity, passion, and endurance. >> how much information does your staff actually retain during and after brainstorming meetings? if the answer is not much, check out the web side of the week. mindmeister.com offers mind mapping sessions. the politic which can be
downloaded through the google apps marketplace allows multiple people to create and edit the maps in real-time. click on our site. it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. find all of today's segments and web exclusive content with more information to help you grow your business. don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. we look forward to getting your feedback. if you'd like, follow us on twitter. it's at msnbcyourbiz. fearless entrepreneurs have arrived. >> i wanted to grow something bigger than ebay would allow me to and i got tired of having rules where i couldn't write certain things in the feedback or i couldn't, you know, link to my own website. >> building, booming businesses on their own terms. until then, i'm j.j. ramberg. remember, we make your business our business. about